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Species Notebook:

  • Sand Lizard

    • Sand Lizard: the sun worshipper!

      Post date: Thursday, 3 April, 2014 - 00:00

      There are some species that really are specialities here in Dorset. In fact, in the National Biodiversity Database there are more species recorded for the Isle of Purbeck than for any other area of similar size in the whole of the United Kingdom (this is what I am told, I have never checked it out!). This is primarily because of the Dorset heathland and the special animals and plants found there; some are very rare indeed and found only in this habitat. So it is with the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis). Along with the smooth snake they are nationally very rare creatures but are common here; they take some finding however!

      The sand lizard was once more widespread in Britain than just the heaths of Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey. They do have pretty specific habitat requirements; the soil must be sandy for them to be able to lay their eggs, they like extensive vegetation for shelter, a good supply of insects to feed on and sunny south facing slopes to warm up by sun-bathing. It has taken a lot of conservation effort to create areas ideally suited to it and the success of this has led to the species spreading further and further afield. I understand some are now being re-introduced to areas from where they have been lost

      Being cold blooded they often use metal, especially corrugated iron, to warm themselves. The metal quickly heats in the sun and retains that heat and the lizards and snakes are quick to take advantage of it. However, until they are up to temperature there is little they can do to avoid the glare of the camera!

      During the breeding season the male sand lizard has a lovely bright green colouring on its flanks and both sexes have distinctive 'eye-spots' on their back. They are quite 'chubby' and so they are quite easily told apart from their duller, slimmer cousins, the common lizard. Like our other lizard species they are primarily insect eaters but the sand izard is capable of taking larger prey and will even eat young of its own species. 


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